Our politics initially sprang from the shared belief that Black women are inherently valuable, that our liberation is a necessity not as an adjunct to somebody else’s may because of our need as human persons for autonomy. This may seem so obvious as to sound simplistic, but it is apparent that no other ostensibly progressive movement has ever consIdered our specific oppression as a priority or worked seriously for the ending of that oppression. Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (e.g. mammy, matriarch, Sapphire, whore, bulldagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive, indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives during four centuries of bondage in the Western hemisphere. We realize that the only people who care enough about us to work consistently for our liberation are us. Our politics evolve from a healthy love for ourselves, our sisters and our community which allows us to continue our struggle and work.
This focusing upon our own oppression is embodied in the concept of identity politics. We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity, as opposed to working to end somebody else’s oppression. In the case of Black women this is a particularly repugnant, dangerous, threatening, and therefore revolutionary concept because it is obvious from looking at all the political movements that have preceded us that anyone is more worthy of liberation than ourselves. We reject pedestals, queenhood, and walking ten paces behind. To be recognized as human, levelly human, is enough.
Combahee River Collective
Quote is from the 1977 Combahee River Collective Statement in the “What We Believe” section, created by a group of Black lesbians (primary authors were Demita Frazier, Beverly Smith, and Barbara Smith) who are Black feminists who gathered to share Black feminist thought, scholarship and ideas for organization beyond politics solely focused on gender, but one intersectional. This was even before said concept was fully developed over a decade later by Kimberlé Crenshaw, but in hindsight intersectionality as a concept can be seen as far back as Sojourner Truth or more recent that the latter with Alice Walker and womanism.
CRC had seven retreats between 1974-1980 and disbanded in 1980. Their work has been critical to the shaping of modern Black feminism because of how not only racism and sexism were focuses but also fighting heterosexism/homophobia, classism, imperialism and more.
This is really important because it’s one of those moments where Black women, specifically, not a generic “women” that means “White” or a generic “Black” that means “men,” but Black women, as our own identity was articulated in anti-oppression scholarship and with experiences particular to Black womanhood itself. Rejecting binaries and erasure.